It’s indisputable that we all need to eat our vegetables, so here are 12 ways to increase the amount in your diet.
1. Greenmarkets, CSAs, and more: Join an organic buying club or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to support a local farm and get a share of the produce. Start by sharing a membership with neighbors and alternating pickups. Go to www.localharvest.org and put in your location to find a club in your area, or try one of the following:
https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets for a list of more than 4,300 farmers markets currently operating in the United States.
http://www.eatwellguide.org/ to find food that is healthful, humane, better for the environment, and that supports family farmers in your neighborhood and when you travel.
https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/csas for information about and listings of Community Supported Agriculture programs.
Grow your own vegetables or start a community garden: A great way to get locally grown, healthy produce is to grow your own. Depending on where you live, there are many types of vegetables you can grow in your own back yard.
Here is a checklist to help you start a community garden: http://www.letsmove.gov/community-garden-checklist. Here are a few additional websites to review: www.burpee.com, www.seedsofchange.com, www.smithandhawken.com.
2. Chop it and have it ready: Cut up vegetables such as onions, broccoli, peppers and asparagus in advance. Put them in pre-portioned zip-close bags or containers and store them in the fridge. You can put veggies in any dish you make: scrambled eggs, sauteed chicken or beef, or on any sandwich. If you don’t like raw vegetables, cook them in a bit of oil until you find the taste you like. That’s key — use vegetables you enjoy.
3. Not too many starchy veggies: Watch your intake of starchy vegetables. They’re carbs and they can be high in calories and not have the same impact. Examples include corn, peas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
4. Restaurant ordering: We eat out a lot, and we add more vegetables to our restaurant food with the following tips:
Check out the menu online beforehand to see which veggies are served. Pick a few that you like; you can even call and ask how they’re prepared.
Top all your dishes with finely chopped cooked or raw veggies. If you order a grilled chicken sandwich, you can asked for chopped broccoli on top.
Include veggies in your order whenever possible. For instance, when you’re ordering an omelet.
Ask if they have a vegetable soup.
Ask for steamed vegetables as a side dish.
If your dish comes with two sides, ask for two servings of veggies — either two of the same or two different ones.
5. Partially prepared: Buy bags of prewashed lettuce (try for organic), broccoli and cauliflower florets, or pre-cut mixed vegetables. Check out the salad bar to stock up on other pre-cut veggies. You can also try veggies that don’t require too much preparation, such as baby carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes.
6. Put them in front: Most people put their vegetables out of sight in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge (which provides increased air circulation and minimizes drying) to keep them fresher longer. But the problem is that you can forget you have them. Keep them where you can see them so you can use them to prepare a meal.
7. Buy garlic and fresh herbs and spices: Learn how to cook your vegetables with flavor. Seek out fresh herbs such as basil, dill and parsley, and spices such as oregano, salt, pepper, curry powder, cumin and especially fresh garlic. Not only does garlic make almost any vegetable taste amazing, it’s an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C, and a good source of selenium.
8. Learn the vegetable seasons: Generally speaking, you’ll get more veggies for your dollar when buying them in season. https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce
9. Frozen vegetables: They’re still good and easy to prepare. It’s not fresh or nothing. Frozen vegetables retain most of their nutrients, so they are a fast alternative for people who have trouble keeping their fridge stocked with fresh. Look for frozen spinach, bell peppers, asparagus, peas, broccoli, mixed vegetables and green beans.
10. Have a green smoothie: There are some great green smoothie recipes as well as store-bought veggie smoothies. When purchasing, check the labels and make sure they are clean — meaning just veggies and/or fruit — nothing else.
11. Discover the tricks of the trade: Learn about the dirty dozen so you know when to buy organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
12. Serve with style: Presentation does matter. Dress up your vegetables; don’t just toss them on the plate. And use a variety of colors for visual interest. See the following tips: http://www.dietdetective.com/diet-detectives-food-styling-healthier-food-taste-better/
Charles Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com